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Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel). New Jersey State Assembly Photo.

Ethics panel accepts complaint against DiMaso

Committee holding action pending response from agencies

By Nikita Biryukov, September 18 2018 1:32 pm

The Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards moved forward on Tuesday a complaint against Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso filed by two of her fellows in the Legislature, Assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling.

The two Democrats accused DiMaso, who represents a neighboring district of spoofing their district office’s telephone number in a robocall attacking the two over tax hikes passed in June during the year’s budget negotiations.

Downey and Houghtaling claim the robocall violated the Truth-In-Caller ID Act, which prohibits the use of spoofing a caller ID number for fraudulent purposes. They filed similar complaints to the Federal Communications Commission and the state Attorney General, which can file civil and criminal charges under the act, respectively.

In her response, DiMaso said she was not involved with the call spoofing, saying her involvement was limited to the recording of the call. A political consultant not named in the proceedings who worked on the ad said the spoof was done in error.

The consultant said he or she had entered the number accidentally because it was featured in the ads script.

The committee accepted jurisdiction over the complaint but held off on further action, as the committee’s counsel recommended the body reach out to the FCC and the Office of the Attorney General to ascertain whether either agency had launched an investigation over the charges.

Because of that, it may be some time before either agency, the Attorney General’s office in particular, get back to the committee with that information.

The matter will remain on the body’s agenda until they receive information from the agencies and are able to move forward in adjudicating the complaint.

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